http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation Fire Rangers crew chief David Comingdeer checks a truck before his crew leaves the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla., to protect tribal lands from wildfire in this 2010 photo.  JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation Fire Rangers crew chief David Comingdeer checks a truck before his crew leaves the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla., to protect tribal lands from wildfire in this 2010 photo. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

CN Fire Rangers operate under minimal budget

Cherokee Nation Fire Rangers Isaac Merchant, front, and Tommy Green sharpen chainsaws prior to leaving the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla., to protect tribal lands from wildfire in this 2010 photo. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation Fire Rangers Isaac Merchant, front, and Tommy Green sharpen chainsaws prior to leaving the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla., to protect tribal lands from wildfire in this 2010 photo. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation Fire Rangers Isaac Merchant, front, and Tommy Green sharpen chainsaws prior to leaving the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla., to protect tribal lands from wildfire in this 2010 photo. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY Phoenix Archives
09/14/2012 08:31 AM
BY KEVIN SCRAPPER
Reporter

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - From January to September, the Cherokee Nation Fire Rangers responded to 157 fires within the tribe’s jurisdiction. But as the number of fires remain consistent with previous years, the Fire Rangers crew is down to a fraction of its previous workforce.

“Three years ago, I had about 10 to 12 men that I could work six to eight months out of the year, to put out these 200 to 300 fires that we have,” Fire Rangers crew chief David Comingdeer said. “Due to cuts and the lack of support to my department, next Tuesday (Sept. 4) we’ll be down to four firefighters and the same amount of fires to fight.”

The Fire Rangers are extensively trained and held to a higher standard than other firefighters in the area, Comingdeer said.

“We are the only federally qualified wild land firefighters in the Cherokee Nation,” he said. “We have lots of volunteer fire departments and lots of city fire departments, but none of them are federally qualified or equipped to fight wild land fire in the Cherokee Nation. They’re state-qualified, state-certified, not federal.”

Comingdeer added that he’s the program’s only full-time CN employee. The Bureau of Indian Affairs employs the other three members, but Comingdeer said it would be beneficial for the tribe to hire the men full time.

“We’ve tried to get them that way, to have Cherokee Nation hire these men to work here permanently. So far we haven’t had any luck doing that,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s budget restraints. I just don’t think that the right people have found out.”

Natural Resources Director Pat Gwin said federal funds allocated to the program have been cut in previous years.

“We used to get a far greater amount from the BIA,” said Gwin. “Our funding level has dropped from about $172,000 to the $56,000 that it is now. We are only able to conduct actual fire suppression activities upon the instruction and oversight of the bureau.”

Staffing is not the only problem the Fire Rangers face. Comingdeer said the program’s budget doesn’t include maintenance expenses for equipment or an operating base.

“It’s very difficult to fight fire the way we do because we don’t have a headquarters. We don’t have a building. We don’t have a place to park our equipment,” said Comingdeer. “Our equipment sits out in the heat and freezing cold all year long. Yet during fire season there is a big demand for us to perform at a federal level, with substandard funding.”

Gwin acknowledged that a building would be welcome, but again stated that funds aren’t’ there.

“It’s a non-tribal priority allocation program,” he said. “A lot of the money that the bureau dolls out in the annual funding agreement is called TPA, which means we have a certain amount of leeway as to how we can spend that. The preparedness fund, it comes down as a very specific line item. It says, you will maintain this truck, you will maintain an employee.”

Comingdeer also said the department’s importance is often overlooked, at least until it’s needed. However, Gwin said the tribe and non-tribal firefighters appreciate the Fire Rangers.

Oklahoma Forestry crew chief Dale Winkler said the Fire Rangers play a vital role in protecting tribal wild lands.

“I’ve worked with David as far as fighting wild land fires and they’ve been very helpful,” he said. “They help protect and preserve our wild lands, our forests out here and also the houses that surround them.”

Winkler said the amount of crew hands in which the Fire Rangers employ is much smaller than the crews he is accustomed to working with, particularly for the rapidly approaching fall fire season. He said his concern is for local communities, particularly in rural areas, because fires caused evacuations in Oklahoma during the summer.

“We could have another Luther or Drumright fire right here in Adair County or Cherokee County or Sequoyah County,” said Winkler. “In the Bell, Cave Springs and Lyon Switch areas we’ve got a lot of tribal homes there. They’re not easy to get to.”

kevin-scrapper@cherokee.org


918-453-5000 ext. 5903

News

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
07/24/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At a July 24 meeting, the Election Commission certified E.O. Smith as the Dist. 5 Tribal Council winner and Mike Shambaugh as the Dist. 9 Tribal Council winner from the July 22 runoff elections. <strong>Dist. 5</strong> Smith won his first term as Tribal Councilor by getting 52.26 percent of the vote with 347 votes. His opponent Uriah Grass received 317 votes for 47.74 percent. Smith said thanked his supporters and that it has been a “long campaign.” “I would just like to thank everybody. It’s been a very long campaign. Uriah is a good guy. I will ask his advice on some things, and I want him to know he can come to me anytime with a suggestion, and I will listen to him,” Smith said. “First thing I want to do is see our community pull together and be one. I’m going to work for everybody. I am going to be everybody’s councilman, and I am going to make the people glad they voted for me. I can’t wait to get started.” Smith will serve western Sequoyah County and part of eastern Muskogee County. <strong>Dist. 9</strong> Shambaugh earned his first term as the Dist. 9 representative after receiving 54.96 percent of the vote with 421 votes. His opponent Clifton Hughes received 345 votes for 45.04 percent. Shambaugh said he would like to thank his supporters and that he’s “fortunate” to serve Dist. 9. “I had great help on this election. I had people who stepped up and made it easy for me to mingle with the crowd. I think I’m very fortunate to serve District 9,” he said. Shambaugh will serve the southern portion of Delaware County south of Highway 20 and part of eastern Mayes County. According to results, 1,432 of the 4,517 registered voters in the two contested districts cast ballots. The more than 1,400 voters accounted for a 31.7 percent turnout. According to the EC’s calendar, candidates had until 5 p.m. on July 26 to request a recount and until 5 p.m. on July 31 to contest the election. The Tribal Council inauguration ceremony is set for 10 a.m. on Aug. 14 at the “Place Where They Play” gymnasium at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/23/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is reducing services to children, senior citizens and residents with disabilities as it deals with what its director says is $30 million in budget cuts to the agency. DHS officials announced the cuts on July 11. Although the Legislature increased appropriations to the agency by $18 million over last year's spending level, Director Ed Lake says the cumulative effects of previous cuts and increasing fixed costs led to the $30 million shortfall. Lake says a freeze on child care subsidies will eliminate assistance to about 1,000 children and their families. Also, senior citizens and adults and children with disabilities will see a reduction in the number of hours of services that they receive each week. The agency also is reducing reimbursement rates to foster families.
BY KENLEA HENSON
News Writer
07/23/2017 01:45 AM
VIAN, Okla. – Candidates E.O. Smith and Uriah Grass vied for the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council’s Dist. 5 seat in a runoff election on July 22. Smith won the seat by receiving 52.26 percent of the vote or 347 votes out of 664 total votes, according to the unofficial results from the CN Election Commission. “I would just like to thank everybody. It’s been a very long campaign. Uriah is a good guy, I will ask his advice on some things, and I want him to know he can come to me anytime with a suggestion, and I will listen to him,” said Smith. “First thing I want to do is see our community pull together and be one. I going to work for everybody, I am going to be everybody’s councilman, and I am going to make the people glad they voted for me. I can’t wait to get started.” Smith said he has always been a “people person” so working for the people is his main goal as the district’s councilman. “I’m going to open an office in Vian from 9 a.m. to noon, five days a week so if you have a problem come see me and I will try to get you an answer and go to work on your problems right then,” he said. “If you can’t come during those times you can call me and we will make an appointment and I’ll meet with you. I am going to be with the people so they know that I am genuinely interested in their problems.” Grass came in close behind Smith by winning 47.74 percent of the vote or 317 votes. Grass could not be reached for a comment about the election results. As Dist. 5 councilman, Smith will be serving western Sequoyah County and part of eastern Muskogee County. The Tribal Council inauguration ceremony for elected officials will be held at 10 a.m., Aug. 14 at the “Place Where They Play” gymnasium at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
BY CHANDLER KIDD
Intern
07/23/2017 01:30 AM
JAY, Okla. – A July 22 runoff election to fill the Dist. 9 Cherokee Nation council seat may be remembered for the winner as well as the low voter turn out. Candidate Mike Shambaugh defeated candidate Clifton Hughes with 54.96 percent of the vote or 421 votes. Hughes received 45.04 percent or 345 votes. In official results, only 766 voters participated in the runoff election. Voting took place at precincts in the towns of Jay, Kansas, Kenwood and Salina. Dist. 9 include the southern portion of Delaware County south of Hwy. 20 and part of eastern Mayes County. Shambaugh reacted to the win in an enthusiastic tone. He thanked his supporters and said he wanted to rest for a couple of days before working on his council agenda. “I had great help on this election. I had people who stepped up and made it easy for me to mingle with the crowd. I think I’m very fortunate to serve District 9,” Shambaugh said. “Personally I want to relax for a couple of days. Whenever you campaign every day until 11:30 at night or later it wears on you.” Although Hughes was not the winning candidate, he was still willing to comment about the runoff election. Hughes said he is proud of his hard work and campaign. “I just want to thank my supporters and (say) that I ran an honest campaign,” Hughes said. Shambaugh and the other council candidates who their races in June and in the runoff election will be sworn in to office at 10 a.m., Aug. 14 in the “Place Where They Play gymnasium at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/22/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Officials say ancient artifacts discovered at an Oklahoma Department of Transportation construction site will be sent to the Sam Noble Museum in Norman. Oklahoma City television station KOKH reports that crews preparing for a bridge replacement project in east central Oklahoma found the artifacts several years ago. According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, workers found large fire pits and obsidian rock that isn't local to Oklahoma. Scott Sundermeyer is program director for ODOT's cultural resources program. He says the artifacts may be from Wichitan-affiliated tribes and are about 3,000 to 4,000 years old. He says the last of the artifacts was removed from the site late last year, and that the construction project won't be delayed.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/21/2017 01:30 PM
PARIS – Airman First Class and Cherokee Nation citizen Mason Turman was one of many United States service members who helped lead the parade down Champs Elysees on July 14 in honor of France’s Bastille Day. Turman, who is in the U.S. Air Force, marched with fellow members of the U.S. Air Forces Europe Force down the Champs-Elysees in the annual event. However, this year marked the first time the American military led the parade. This year’s theme was “Operational Together,” and it highlighted the close relationship among all the French security services and with the Americans. While France is America’s oldest ally, the United States would not have won the Revolution without French sailors winning the Battle of the Chesapeake against the English in 1783. The modern version of the alliance dates to World War I. The 2017 Bastille Day Parade was almost exactly 100 years from when 14,000 American soldiers arrived in France as part of the American Expeditionary Force. The American contingent leading the parade included troops from the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Marines from U.S. Marine Forces Europe.